What's the Latest Development?
Scientists have identified a set of stem cells capable of generating new neurons in the brain which can regulate appetite, overturning the previous conclusion that one's desire for food was fixed by genetics for a lifetime. "The researchers used 'genetic fate mapping' techniques to make their discovery—a method that tracks the development of stem cells and cells derived from them, at desired time points during the life of an animal. They established that a population of brain cells called 'tanycytes' behave like stem cells and add new neurons to the appetite-regulating circuitry of the mouse brain after birth and into adulthood."
What's the Big Idea?
Inroads against the obesity epidemic are sorely needed and, unlike dieting, changing the neural circuitry that regulates appetite could provide a permanent solution. "Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally. More than 1.4 billion adults worldwide are overweight and more than half a billion are obese. Associated health problems include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer. And at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese." Loss or malfunctioning of neurons in the hypothalamus is the prime cause of eating disorders such as obesity, say the researchers.
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